Scout Report: Round 18 Fantasy recap
Shaun Johnson's hot streak continues, the key guns to bring in for the run home, and the other big NRL Fantasy winners from the weekend.
No more byes!
We're on the run home now folks, with every club having had both of their byes and Holden State of Origin done and dusted for another season. That means, injuries and suspensions aside, every player NRL will be available to play from here on out – so your task as a Fantasy coach is to get your ideal "final" 17 together as quickly as possible, if you haven't already.
You want all your forwards and halves to be scoring 45+ a game (preferably 50+) and all your outside backs scoring close to 40 points a game or better. Any player who doesn't make that cut should probably be cashed out or upgraded, depending on your cash and trades remaining.
If you have, say, half a dozen trades or less though, it's time to keep either keep them up your sleeve for late-season emergencies, or run the risk of being caught out with not enough trades in the run home. This is especially true if you're aiming to win your head-to-head league, where having trades up your sleeves for the finals series (starting in Round 22) could be the difference between winning your comp or being knocked out.
Johnson's hot streak continues
Shaun Johnson's average score in his past three games is – wait for it – 96. That's Bradman-esque stuff. Those plucky Fantasy coaches who have taken the risk of captaining him in recent weeks have been handsomely rewarded, and while I still won't be doing it (the likes of Cameron Smith, Corey Parker, Simon Mannering and Andrew Fifita still seem like more reliable Fantasy captain options) it's been an absolute pleasure to have the Warriors playmaker in my team. Like most top playmakers he comes up with assists , goals and kick metres but it's Johnson's brilliant running game that sets him apart from the rest of the NRL's halfbacks, with two line breaks, eight tackle breaks, 213 run metres and a try accounting for 61 of his 93 points on the weekend.
That means his score could drop significantly if he has a quiet game (unlike somebody like Daly Cherry-Evans, whose base stats of tackles and kick metres tend to get him to at least 40 on most games) but Johnson is a genuine weapon if you're still hunting for that final star half in your team. On the negative side, he now shares the bragging rights as NRL Fantasy's most expensive player, equal with Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston.
Other players to produce massive scores this weekend were Sharks forward Wade Graham (83), Warriors back rower Bodene Thompson (80), Roosters speedster Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (73), and veterans Jamie Lyon and Luke Lewis (both 71).
The big guns to buy now
Only those with a lot of trades in the bank should still be looking at picking up cash cows now, for the rest of us it's time to bring in as many big guns as possible. Johnson is obviously the form Fantasy player in the competition but there are several other stars in hot form these days.
Here are the players I'd put in the "guns" bracket at this stage of the season.
Hooker: Cameron Smith, Andrew McCullough, Robbie Farah, Michael Lichaa (possibly).
Front row: Andrew Fifita, Paul Gallen, Mike Cooper, Aaron Woods, George Burgess, Jesse Bromwich, Kade Snowden.
Second row: Corey Parker, Simon Mannering, Paul Gallen, Shaun Fensom, Elijah Taylor, Tyson Frizell.
Halves: Johnathan Thurston, Daly Cherry-Evans, Shaun Johnson, Ben Hunt (and Adam Reynolds in a week or two, if he regains his Fantasy form).
Centres: Iosia Soliola, Josh Dugan, Jack Bird, Euan Aitken, Dane Gagai.
Wingers/fullbacks: James Tedesco, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Semi Radradra, Josh Dugan, Lachlan Coote, Michael Morgan, Euan Aitken, Dane Gagai, Greg Inglis.